AUSLAN interpreters took centre stage at Opera Australia's performance of Hansel and Gretel on Wednesday.
The show was for Ballarat schoolchildren and made the artform accessible to deaf and hearing-impaired children.
Interpreter Maxine Burton said shadow interpreting – which sees the interpreters on stage rather than off to the side – made for a fuller show for both deaf and non-deaf people.
“We’re making something that is accessible and shows deaf culture and deaf language on stage, (as) part of the action and not off to the side,” she said.
“It’s a real collaborative effort. The directors at Opera Australia are great. They’re really open to our feedback and to the deaf consultant’s feedback, which is fantastic, and we just work to put together something that’s going to be accessible but also interesting to look at visually for the people who don’t necessarily need the interpreters.
The happiness of the audience was clear, with children streaming out of the theatre with smiles on their faces after the (sometimes dreaded) opera and a Q&A with the cast.
Performer Emily Barber said it was a pleasure to put on a multi-layered show.
“We really enjoyed it. It’s really rewarding to add another level to the show. We’d already been doing it for a couple of months, so it was nice in that sense,” she said.
“It’s really lovely that’s part of something that’s traditionally been an auditory experience, being classical music, and now to bring it to the deaf community also.”
Ms Barber said the Auslan-signed opera engaged everyone.
“The hearing children love it (as well), because it’s something else for them to get involved in. Especially during a slow song like (The Evening Prayer) their attention spans can wander sometimes, and now with the Auslan they’re enthralled by it,” she said.
She also said there were no issues dodging the extra bodies on stage after performing the work for months already without them.
“It's just a matter of being mindful. We’re having a good time, and everyone’s nice to each other,” she said.
Her Majesty’s theatre manager Graeme Russell said it was great to open the theatre up to those who wouldn’t normally enjoy be able to enjoy a show there.
"It’s nice to do something this inclusive,” he said.
“Our opportunity to offer something that is truly accessible like this is limited, so it’s great (to have it."